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Words, Oct. 25

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Indian summer is that brief period of warm summer weather that often occurs in late autumn, after the first spell of cooler temperatures. Dotty McLemore asks how it got its name. Various theories have been propounded. Some say that was when the Indians did their last big hunting (of game or white settlers, depending) before winter set in. Politically incorrect types suggest that Indian summer is related to Indian giver, with Indian used as a synonym for “false.” The Cambridge Guide to English Usage says, “It is explained through the fact that such weather was typical of the inland areas then inhabited by American Indians, which differed from the changeable cool climate of the coasts settled by Europeans.” The Word Detective quotes a Boston clergyman in 1812: "This charming season is called the Indian Summer, a name which is derived from the natives, who believe that it is caused by a wind, which comes immediately from the court of their great and benevolent God Cautantowwit, or the south-western God."

Speaking of Cambridge … “Traditions are tested at Porterhouse College Cambridge when the incumbent master dies and a politician, an old alma mater, is appointed as the new master … “

Cambridge is an old alma mater for some people. I don't know how a politician could be. What if Dick Cheney were your alma mater? That wouldn't look good on a resume.

After seeing a news release from the Arkansas Sustainability Network, I asked for an ASN definition of sustainability. What are these people networking toward, I wondered. Katy Elliott, coordinator of the group, graciously replied:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability would refer to a measure of how something moves us toward the goals of sustainable development. Examples of sustainability are reducing waste and contributing to a strong local economy by supporting local farmers (organic/naturally grown when available). Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

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